Oppo DV-970HD Universal Disc Player

Oppo DV-970HD Universal Disc Player

April 11, in Hi-Fi Systems Reviews


  • Frequency: 20Hz – 20kHz (±1dB)
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: >100dB
  • Total Harmonic Distortion: < 0.01%
  • Dimensions: H 2in x W 16 ½in x D 10in
  • Price: $149.00

What we have here Ladies and Gentlemen is a stealth fighter, flying low and under the radar. All Audiophiles are looking for new and unique ways to maximize our audio purchasing power and consequently a multi disc player is a very reasonable way to play SACDs, DVDs, DVDAs, and CDs without having a separate player for each format. What is unusual until now you had to spend a bucket full of money to get something that would sound good when playing each of these formats. Enter the Oppo DV-970HD DVD player, which can be purchased for $109.00 plus shipping, directly from Oppo. You can have a universal player that sounds good and keeps your budget in line.

Oppo DV-970HD Front

Oppo DV-970HD review

I have an agreement with my wife regarding to audio gear. If I keep my gear out of the living room, she doesn’t really care what it looks like. The Oppo is one piece of gear that is so innocuous looking that it will not offend anyone. It simply looks like a regular DVD player which stands approximately 2 inches high, 16 ½ inches wide and 10 inches deep. It has a lightly constructed enclosure made of sheet metal and plastic which only weighs in at 5lbs. There are 4 buttons on the front of the unit for power, drawer open/close, play/pause and stop. The rear panel of the DV-970HD DVD player has the usual analog RCA output jacks for stereo and surround sound applications. In addition there are digital audio outputs, video and HDMI outputs. Oppo ships the unit equipped with a remote control, a removable 2 prong power cord, HDMI, video and audio cables which all arrive securely packaged in a 4 inch high, 14 ½ inch wide and 19 inch long cardboard box. This is a case where good things do come in small packages.

Since this unit was fresh out of the box, I initially set it up in my bedroom system to breakin before doing any critical listening. There are excellent set-up instructions that come with the DV-970HD and for best results you must connect to a TV to use the onscreen menus to select your system preferences. I set my unit up for audio only however, you can use the unit in a 5.1 Audio, Dolby Digital, DTS decoding or stereo surround sound configuration as well. The set-up process takes about 15 minutes and then you are off and running.

My bedroom system consists of an Audio Electronic Supply AE-3 vacuum tube preamplifier, a Cary Audio SLA70B Signature 60 Watt vacuum tube amplifier and a NAD C521BEE CD player. Presently I am running a pair of Alon’ Lotus Esprit speakers in place of my usual ProAc Tablette IIIs, just to mix thing up a bit. The listening position is situated so that my ears are about 7 feet back from the front plane of the speakers. I have the Alon’s pulled out from the wall 15 inches and separated 6 feet. For purposes of this evaluation I used the 1 meter pair of Discovery Essence interconnects from my reference system between the preamp and amp and used a pair of Express Six interconnects on both the NAD and the Oppo. This allowed me to switch the source at the preamp instead of connecting and reconnecting cables to switch the digital sources.

Listening Oppo DV-970HD

After set-up, right out of the box it was apparent that this is an extremely nice sounding player. I left it on, playing background music for the better part of two days before comparing it to the NAD C521BEE. I consider the NAD to be a nice sounding player for the money but the Oppo is much more musical, even without much break-in. I listened to a remastered version of “Brothers In Arms” by Dire Straits which is one of my favorite CDs for evaluations. While listening to “Your Latest Trick” track number 4 from the disc, Mark Knopfler’s vocals were front and center the sax was off center to the right and notes from his guitar floated in space just left of center. You could really hear the texture and occasional rasp of Knopfler’s voice, the NAD tended to politely ignore some of this information. The percussion was placed slightly behind Knopflers’s vocals and spread from left to right extending to the edges of the sound stage, just like in my reference system. Compared to the NAD the Oppo conveyed a warmer and more liquid presentation. The NAD in comparison was dryer and slightly less detailed, with perhaps just bit more bottom end. When listening to the Oppo you could perceive more information which made it much better at conveying the performance.

Oppo DV-970HD Backside

Listening to the CD, “The Look of Love” by Diana Krall, I noticed that Krall’s vocals were extremely silky and smooth, much closer to the qualities exhibited by my reference system and more life like overall than the NAD. During track number 4 “Cry Me a River” Diana was front and center, sharing the soundstage with the strings stage left, guitar slightly forward of the strings left of center, and the piano just right of center. Again the percussive elements were ever present to the rear, smooth, detailed and balanced throughout the soundstage.

I decided after a couple of weeks of break-in, to try the Oppo in my reference system. My reference CD player is a Primare CD 30.2; I was curious to see how the Oppo would perform in comparison when playing through my Audio Research SP15 vacuum tube preamplifier and Audio research VS110 vacuum tube amplifier. The connections for both the Primare CD 30.2 and the Oppo DV 970-HD to my preamp were made using Eichmann Express Six interconnects. The connection between my preamp and amp was accomplished via a 1 meter pair of Discovery Essence interconnects, while the speaker cable I used was Monster Cable SR12-2R-CL 12 gauge copper. For this evaluation I decided to use my ProAc Tablette III speakers secured with DAP Fun Tak, to the top of 27 inch high, lead and sand filled Target speaker stands. The speakers are situated 54 inches from the back wall, 8 feet apart and toed in on axis to the listening position which puts my ears 8 feet back from the front plane of the speakers.

What became apparent immediately was how good the little Oppo really is. I played both the “Brothers In Arms” and “The Look of Love” on both players and was really impressed with how musical the Oppo sounded. It gave up dynamic energy and bass heft when compared the Primare but the Oppo acquitted itself quite nicely. Yes the Primare sounded better when playing CDs but it should, it cost 15 times the price of the DV-970HD.

Next I compared the performance of Primare using CDs and the Oppo using SACDS. My friend John K. was kind enough to loan me some SACDs and DVDAs for this review. Since I had a copy of Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue” in both SACD and CD format, I decided to start there. Initially I was surprised by the difference, on track number 1 “So What”, the Primare CD 30.2 provided a more dynamic presentation with greater bass slam than the SACD played through the Oppo DV-970HD. The Oppo sounded syrupy in contrast with less visceral impact. Switching between the two digital players on the fly really emphasized the differences. Cannonball Adderley’s sax was less brash, Miles Davis’s trumpet had less bite and the some of the immediacy of the drums and bass was missing. That being said the Oppo still sounded quite good just not as dynamic or realistic.

I also compared a DVDA of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” to a few tracks I had in regular CD format on Fleetwood Mac’s “Greatest Hits”. The CD played on the Primare CD 30.2 though more dynamic was less detailed. I attribute some of the difference to the fact that the DVDA was a re-mastered disc and the CD was not. However the DVDA format had a very clean and detailed sound that never became strident or etched. The only criticism I had is that the bass was at times a little lean.

Next I compared “Kind of Blue” in CD and SACD format on the Oppo. The bass and percussion on “So What” had a bit more weight in CD format than the SACD version did, the trumpet and sax had slightly more presence. The imaging while fine in SACD format, wasn’t as pinpoint precise as in CD format, overall it was very acceptable but remember, we are talking about a $149.00 DVD player not a mega buck machine.

Conclusions about Oppo DV-970HD

You may have already guessed that I really like the Oppo DV-970HD and I do, but which format sounds best with the Oppo you may ask? With my limited experience using the Oppo in SACD and DVDA I would say that DVDA sounds slightly better than a good remastered red book CD when played back on the Oppo. With that said I still think the DV-970HD sounds better playing regular CD’s than SACDs which to me sound a little reticent and polite in comparison.

I always advocate the use of Audio Prism Iso Bearings or Vibrapods under inexpensive players such as this, it always helps quell chassis vibrations which will improve the sound stage. The Oppo DV-970HD is so good it will benefit from the use of high quality interconnects that will more than likely cost more than the unit itself but if you can afford to, I highly recommend it. In any case the Oppo DV-970HD is a ground breaking product for what is does so well, bringing the price point of good sound down to where everyone can afford it. Well done!

external link: DV-970HD on Oppo Digital website

from affordableaudio, By Todd Arthur

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